Last Friday the House ended their work week by spending nearly an hour debating a bill dealing with the death penalty. Right now a person convicted of a capital offense can be found not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty, or guilty but mentally ill. If a person is found guilty by reason of insanity, they are hospitalized. Those found guilty or guilty but mentally ill can be sentenced to life in prison or executed.
The law currently prohibits juveniles from being executed; the law also prohibits intellectually disabled from being executed. HB 1123 would add those with “severe mental illness” from being executed. The definition of “severe mental illness” refers to a substantial disorder which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, or ability to cope with the basic demands of life. In these cases, the guilty person would face life in prison.
An amendment was added to specify that the severe mental illness must have manifested itself and been documented prior to the commission of the crime. The bill passed 45-20 and will now be considered by the Senate.
On a much less emotional note, the House defeated a bill that sought to exempt those under 18 years of age doing less than $1,000 worth of sales in a year from having to collect and remit sales taxes. According to the prime sponsor, the bill was being brought because lemonade stands were being shut down in Texas and other states for not remitting sales tax. However, the SD Department of Revenue already exempts casual or occasional sales made by an individual who is not engaged in the business of selling at retail. This means that kids in South Dakota can continue to have a lemonade stand or pumpkin patch and not have to keep track of whether or not they have made $1,000 worth of sales.
The House Transportation committee approved a bill that would permanently enact Daylight Savings Time in South Dakota, if the six states surrounding us also enact permanent Daylight Savings Time. The committee also passed a bill that would change South Dakota from a five-year replacement schedule for license plates to a ten-year cycle. There was some concern among committee members that ten years is too long a time frame because plates lose their reflectivity over time, making them hard to read. However, the prime sponsor indicated that by doubling the time for plate replacements, it would allow for millions of dollars to go to local roads and bridges.
The House Local Government committee approved a bill allowing county commissions to permit tax breaks on riparian buffer strips in the county for a river, lake, or stream which is tributary to any of the water bodies approved last year for the tax break. Any local option buffer strip would be assessed at 60 percent of its agricultural income value.
The deadline for introducing bills and joint resolutions was last Friday. A total of 553 bills and joint resolutions were brought in this year, compared with 394 last year. Bills have to pass the house of origin by the last Friday in February, meaning that committees will be busy the next three weeks as they sort through their bill log.